hair; heroes

By Laura Swift | January 24, 2015

One of the great things about working on a commentary is the random avenues it leads you down.  What starts out looking like an unpromising bit of text turns out to raise issues about the ancient world that you’d never have thought of. Before you know it, you’re discovering all kinds of obscure debates, bizarre ancient texts, and random pieces of trivia: it’s the scholarly equivalent of link-surfing on wikipedia.

My most recent experience of this began with one of Archilochus’ least known fragments, 217 West, 'with hair shorn away from the shoulders close to the skin'. Not a line that sets the world on fire, all things considered. It might well have been really interesting in its original context, but we don’t know anything about it,  since the line is quoted  simply as an example of accentuation. But where it led me to was the wonderful world of Greek haircuts, and in particular to two notorious haircuts of the modern era, the bowl cut and the mullet.

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